Following on from the Competition Commission’s publication late last year of its Terms of Reference for the Market Inquiry into the Grocery Retail Sector, the Competition Commission (“Commission”) on Thursday, 18 February 2016, appointed Halton Cheadle to head the panel for the Commission’s Market Inquiry into the Grocery Retail Sector. Lulama Mtanga and Lumkile Mondi were appointed as panellists.

The Market Inquiry aims to determine whether or not there are features within the Grocery Retail Sector which may prevent, impact or distort competition within the market. To this end, the Commission has, inter alia, identified the following areas of investigation: 

  1. how the expansion, diversification and consolidation of national supermarket chains, impacts on small and independent retailers in townships, peri-urban and rural areas;
  2. how regulations, including municipal town planning and by-laws, impacts on small and independent retailers in townships, peri-urban and rural areas;
  3. how buyer groups impact on small and independent retailers in townships, peri-urban and rural areas;
  4. how a number of identified value chains impact on the operations of small and independent retailers  in townships, peri-urban and rural areas;
  5. the dynamics of competition between local and foreign national operated small and independent retailers in townships, peri-urban and rural areas;
  6. what impact long term exclusive lease agreements has on competition within the grocery retail  market sector.

Now that the Panel has been appointed, we await the publication of its administrative guidelines.  The Commission has previously indicated that it hopes to complete the Market Inquiry by May 2017.

The Grocery Sector Market Inquiry is the third Market Inquiry initiated by the Commission after the Amendment to the Competition Act, 89 of 1998, which provided the legal framework for market inquiries. The Healthcare Market Inquiry and the LPG Inquiry are ongoing.